NIEHS and National Toxicology Program Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., received the 2016 North Carolina Award, the state’s highest civilian honor, at a banquet and ceremony Sept. 22 in Raleigh. The awards are presented each year in the fields of science, literature, fine arts, and public service.
"It is an honor to pay tribute to these remarkable individuals, who have made North Carolina better by their extraordinary involvement in this state," said Susan Kluttz, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. "Each has enriched the lives of our citizens and propelled North Carolina onto the national and world stages."
“It’s a real honor to accept the North Carolina Award in Science, and a tremendous blessing to be recognized for doing work that I really love, and that I really believe in,” Birnbaum said, accepting the award.
Internationally recognized scientist
The award cited Birnbaum’s international recognition in the fields of environmental health and toxicology, and her position as the first woman to lead NIEHS, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Before coming to NIEHS, she directed the Experimental Toxicology Division at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Her work exploring the effects of dioxins, asbestos, flame retardants, and Agent Orange has impacted practices and health outcomes worldwide,” the award read in part. “Birnbaum was a trailblazing woman in the science lab as a student in the 1960s. She was encouraged by her high school cheerleading coach who also taught science, making it cool for girls in science.”
Birnbaum received the award from Governor Pat McCrory. Other honorees in the field of science this year are NIEHS grantee Aziz Sancar, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Paul Modrich, Ph.D., of Duke University. The two scientists shared the 2015 Nobel Prize in chemistry with Tomas Lindahl, Ph.D., from the Francis Crick Institute and Clare Hall Laboratory in Great Britain, for work on DNA repair.